Sunday, April 16, 2006

Minority rights, respect and the balance of power

The mystery of Sarajevo
It has often been noted that while Sarajevo was under siege many Serbs were living in the city and participating in its defense on the Muslim side. It is less known that since the war ended many of those Serbs have left. And Serbs and Croats are still leaving Sarajevo. This is often explained as a resentment from the war. But this does not explain why this hostility increased after the war had ended.

I believe there is another explanation. After the war the Bosniac army fired its non-muslim commanders and Bosniac parties started a campaign that blamed the Serbs (and to a lesser extent also the Croats) for the war and painted the Muslims as innocent victims. The presence of peace keepers and other internationals didn't help very much: most of them have learned from the media at home that the Muslims are the good guys and the Serbs the bad guys. And as they stay often less than a year they don't have much time to develop a more nuanced picture.

As a consequence the social status of the Serbs has sunk. "war criminal" is now a label that is sticking on every Serb - indepently of what he did in the war. I think the phenomena is quite similar to painting Jews as the "murderers of Christ". Justified indignation about crimes is being used by bullies as a tool. It is a very effective tool to keep a minority in an inferior position.

Bosnia had a civil war. But the war was about something. It was about the distribution of power in Bosnia. Under Tito the Muslims had dominated the government. But the central government in Belgrade formed a counterweight so the Serbs didn't worry. Yugoslavia was a dictatorship anyway. But with democracy coming and Bosnia becoming independent they wanted guarantees. Not surprising for anyone who has read the book of Izetbegovic where he talks about Muslims grabbing power and sees Pakistan is the ideal Islamic state. So this was a real conflict and people can respect each other in comflict - even when war crimes are committed. There are good and bad people everywhere.

That history is now rewritten. Instead we are told about some mad power-hungry Milosevic who in collaboration with the local crazy Serbs attacked an innocent Bosnia. This is slowly poisoning the ethnic relations in Bosnia and may have far-reaching consequences in the future.

One of the consequences of less status is less power and this is very clear with the Serbs. At the moment the Dayton Treaty is torn up piece by piece and the Serbs are bullied into submission by threats from the OHR. Sure, Bosnia needs reforms, but these should be the result of an agreement of Bosnia's ethnic groups. Instead the Muslims decide alone and the West helps them to impose their will.

I remember one of Bosnia's internationals saying that the Serbs will have to go through the dust like the Germans after 1945 before the Muslims will be able to accept them again. Unfortunately this kind of ignorant people are quoted in newspapers as experts. They do not understand that they are comdemning a whole nation for the crimes of a few. Neither do they understand that they are condemning Serbs to being a kind of second class citizens like gypsies are in many countries. And least of all they don't understand that you cannot have a stable democracy where more than a third of the population is treated like second class citizens.

So now Bosnia is an instable state with bad prospects for real democracy - because democracy is based on equality. And the internationals are doing their best - with the best intentions - to make it worse.

In Bosnia there was a balance of power before the war and the Serbs, Croats and Muslims where reasonable equal. Kosovo has a quite different history in which at some time the Serbs and at other times the Albanians were at the top. And each of them had the habit to treat the other like second class citizens. Because of these experiences both sides tend to be much more radical than the people from Bosnia in order to secure their dominance.

This became clear immediately clear after the war when many Serbs were chased away, their properties stolen and some killed. The KFOR soldiers looked the other way and many of them thought that the Albanians were entitled to have some revenge after what the Serbs had done to them.

Unfortunately such violence is not just some onetime revenge. It builds a society where violence against minorities is considered normal and minorities are inferior citizens. Since then the UN has never been able to break this pattern. Often they are even sucked into it. When there is some attack like a bombing in a Serb village for example American soldiers start first with searching houses in the Serb village. Only when that doesn't give a result will they consider that that it might have been an Albanian from a neighbouring village.

A concrete example is this recent news report: Home of Danilo Dzolic (75) was attacked by armed group at about 1 a.m. this morning in Kosovo village of Tucep, RTS reports. No one was injured during the attack but the house in which Dzolic and his wife were at that moment is damaged. The attackers most probably wanted to steal Dzolic’s tractor because so far four tractors had been stolen in the village. Tucep residents chased away the attackers by firing their hunting guns, which Kosovo police and KFOR confiscated today. The Serbs living in the village expressed their concerns the attacks might happen again.
One sees it again: the victims are the only ones who are punished. There is no search in neighbouring villages for tractors and there is no decision to establish a police post in the village. By disarming the villagers KFOR is actually helping the attackers.

The main effect of such "protection" is to humiliate the Serbs and to diminish the respect that they get in society. It is a self-reinforcing process. The next time the Serbs have a problem many American soldiers will not feel very motivated to help "those losers".

This pattern of helping aggression has a long history. When in 2001 massive Albanian protests were planned in Mitrovica and it was feared that North Mitrovica would be overrun the USA sent soldiers to North Mitrovica to search Serb houses for weapons. And when in march 2004 UN spokesman Derek Chappell questioned that the drowning of 3 Albanian children had been the work of Serbs he was transfered to a position without press contact - making the road free for the riots.

The many occupied houses and lands from Serbs have never really bothered the UN. They payed lipservice that it was a problem but they didn't do anything. After the recent Kai Eide report a new commission has installed to attack the problem but I am pessimistic whether this will be for real. Of course occupied property is another symbol of the Serbs and other minorities as inferior people.

Most of the violence in Kosovo nowadays is the so-called low level violence. This covers throwing stones at people, houses or cars, stealing cattle and other properties, setting fires in sheds or sometimes also houses, beatings, etc. A example of how this works is this recent report from Tanjug (UNMIK translation 21 april): The inhabitants of the village of Straze, in the region of Gnjilane, have announced, following a number of robberies, that they will sell their houses and land and move somewhere else, KiM Radio from Caglavica reported. Cedomir Ivkovic from Straze says he doesn’t feel safe on his property ever since his dog was killed in the yard. “We stay awake all night long, only the dogs are protecting us, while the Albanians come to ask us whether we want to sell the house,” said Cedomir’s sister Smilja, adding that her family is under great pressure and that she is afraid to stay in the village.

The attitude of the UN is that these kind of things could at best be ignored. According to the UN the good thing is that it doesn't lead to large scale clashes. Yet it is very effective.

I disagree. This low level violence keeps alive the climate of violence. The eruption of march 2004 was possible exactly because of this climate. One can compare it to Nazi Germany. Auschwitz didn't appear out of nothing. It started with small harrassment, then came the Kristallnacht and later the Stars of David and the ghetto's. Kosovo is quite far on this road and it will need coordinated effort to bring it back to normal ethnic relations.

The problems of Kosovo are much worse than those in Bosnia. Here we have to deal with violence and witnesses who keep silent out of fear. It is difficult to establish the rule of law in such a climate and it requires a hands on style of government with an attention to detail. Unfortunately the UN seems not even to have recognized the problems.

The Yugoslavia Tribunal has played a rather strange role. For a long time it seemed to restrict itself to Serb suspects. The few Albanians, Bosniacs and Croats that are indicted seem mainly to serve to avoid criticism. And even today only politicians from the Serb side are prosecuted.

I have the impression that the judges and prosecution at the ICTY are blinded by the ambition to go into the history books as the next Nuremberg. In order to achieve that they need a simple story: good guys versus bad guys.

Few people seem to realize that it was Auschwitz that made Nuremberg a success. These were facts - not abstract theories about who was guilty of the war. The verdicts about the latter are nowadays largely forgotten. In fact many people believe until today that World War II would not have happened if the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919 had not been so partial.

For that reason I believe that the ICTY would have much better results if it concentrated on facts instead of theories. War crimes should not be linked to political aims or parties. Instead the tribunal should focus on the Geneva Treaties: there are standards of behaviour in war time and those standards should be maintained. The judges will find this boring: instead of unmasking the big Serb complot they will become a kind of traffic cops writing tickets for bad behaviour in the war. But it would have a much bigger moral impact on the region and work much better in preventing similar behaviour in a next war.

At the moment prosecution of war crimes has become highly politicised. It is not only the Serbs who protest and drag their feet. Bosniacs and Croats protest just as hard when their people are indicted. All parties use statements about war crimes by the others as a tool to paint the other side as bad - while ignoring the crimes of their own side.

We are told that a warcrime tribunal is necessary is order to reestablish trust between the parties after the war. As far as I can see the ICTY is doing the opposite: it politicises something that should be non-political.

I believe that the population of the Balkan is very well capable of deciding for themselves what their politicians did wrong that got them into this mess. We should just provide them with the facts. They should decide for themselves in an open discussion and dialogue about the political consequences.

I found the ICTY's effort to prove that all wars were a result of Milosevic's aim for a Greater Serbia just ridiculous. It doesn't even fit his psychological profile as an opportunist without clear convictions. Instead they would have done better to link Milosevic to one of the concrete war crimes. And if they couldn't link Milosevic to such crimes: why did they indict him them?

Reconciliation and respect
In most of the world respect is a very important term. It has not the western meaning of admiring someone. Instead it is more related to the respect you have for a man with a gun: you don't mess with him. You may like a person you respect, but it is not necessary.

In the Western world the word has lost most of this meaning. With the rule of law and the principle that all people are equal before the law there is no longer much need for this kind of respect. Only discrminated minorities like America's blacks still talk a lot about respect.

There are many projects in Bosnia and Kosovo where idealistic foreigners try to bring the different ethnic groups together in some project. The idea that is that when these people know each other better they will hate each other less. In Kosovo many of these projects have stopped after march 2004. Too much Serbs had lost their faith in those projects after they had seen their Albanian project "friends" participate in the riots.

What these internationals miss is that the main issue is not reconciliation or frienship: it is respect that is the most basic. Only when respect has been established is real friendship possible.

A parallel example from history is slavery. Many plantation slave owners had been raised by caring black nannies and friendly black house servants. Yet that didn't stop many of them to become cruel towards their slaves. Here too respect was missing.

The role of the UN as interim government
Building respect between people requires maintaining law and order. It requires also doing your best to treat all parties as equals. This is hard work and until now it has been shunned by our peacekeepers.

One of the worst aspects of colonialism was that it picked favorites among the local population and on that basis laid the basis for later ethnic conflicts. They did this not out of evil, but because it was the easiest way to rule. Without local allies it is very difficult to rule a foreign country. The best allies are usually those who could not govern on their own strength - so they remain dependent on the coloniser. Of course this is a very good argument to stay forever.

The UN rulers in Kosovo and Bosnia are following exactly the same pattern. And in both Bosnia and Kosovo one sees that with the years the distribution of power is becoming increasingly lopsided in favor of the UN's favorite. Just as with decolonisation this may give major troubles once the UN has left.

For this reason I believe that the UN should formulate and exit strategy from the beginning and put much more trust in the Balkan's own capabilities of solving problems.

In Bosnia the UN had an exit strategy in the form of the Dayton agreement. The UN should have implemented it and left. Instead they started tinkering with the treaty. Now we are told that Bosnia has too many layers of government and that many tasks are executed on too many levels. The UN is making three mistakes here. First of all Dayton stipulates on which level which responsibilities should be. If other levels implement the same responsibilities it should be clear that they are the ones who are wrong. Next comes that this is a discussion about economic efficiency. I don't think it is a task of the UN to impose economic efficiency. This should be left to the local parties. And last but not least: a peace treaty is a kind of sacred document. Tearing it up because one party claims that it is not economically efficient is for me a kind of blasphemy. There are thousand other ways to increase economic efficiency without undermining the fundament of the country.

The balance of power
In the Ottoman and the Habsburg empires and even in Yugoslavia many ethnic groups lived together without much trouble. Many people believe that if just the Serbs or the Croats or whoever hadn't become so nationalistic we could have maintained that kind of peace.

I don't believe so. Both these empires and Yugoslavia were dictatorships. The rulers saw themselves as typical upperclass people standing above the small national interests. With democracy this picture changes: parlementarians depend on having supporters and those are usually from one ethnic group. So the parliament becomes an arena of representatives of different ethnic groups competing for power and money. After some time one sees the development of ground rules and a balance of power that inhibits one party from claiming all the spoils. But this takes time and is preceded by a period of turmoil in which much can go wrong.

In Yugoslavia this process was aggravated by two factors. The country was in a period of economic turmoil in which some groups became much richer and others much poorer. So there were many people who were very motivated to pursue their interests in politics. The second factor was the federal structure that had been constructed after Tito's death. Its distribution of power did not reflect the democratic distribution so it was bound to give problems. More important perhaps was that it gave too little power to the central government: there was nobody who was above the parties.

I think that the main task of international mediation and peace keeping in this region should be to build up te ground rules and the balance of power in the parliament. We should function as the party above the parties that Yugoslavia missed. As I stated before: respect is very much related to power. So when we achieve a balance of power we achieve also a better respect for human rights.

Unfortunately many "peacekeepers" have another idea. They believe that one party is good and the other is bad and they let one party convince them that they can recreate the unity of Tito's time. Obviously they don't understand how democracy works.

One sees a similar misunderstanding in Kosovo at the moment. Kosovo's Albanian leaders are praised by American negotiator Wisner for "reaching out" to Kosovo's Serbs. But this "reaching out" is just PR talk. It won't shift the balance of power and result in more respect and a better treatment of Kosovo's Serb citizens. For that concrete measures like autonmy are necessary.


Cvijus011 said...

This is really a great article Wim.
I really enjoyed it.

I especially liked your conclusion on the fact of "reaching out the hand to the Serbs".

Also i find your characterization of the "peacekeepers" really interesting, it is rare to find somebody from the West with such a point of view.

Keep it on mate

Friendly greets


Anonymous said...

Seems like you two should get a room or something...

Wim Roffel said...


Actually Cvijus and I have some quite serious differences of opinion. I won't link to his blog because I dislike it that he republishes Mary Mostert. I find Mary Mostert both factually incorrect and sometimes insulting ("hordes of Albanians").

But Cvijus and I can look beyond differences of opinion and treat each other with respect as human beings. And that is an art that you haven't mastered as far as I can see.


Estavisti said...

Good post, as usual. If only you could post more often I suppose...

Cvijus011 said...


I liked you article a lot and I was wonderin if you would allow me to publish it in the Serbianews? of course with the source and the name of the author mentioned.
It's just an idea so let me know if it is ok with you.

Friendly greets


Anonymous said...

Ethnic Hungarians in Serbia seek autonomy for Vojvodina

(Novi Sad, DTT-NET.COM) – Ethnic Hungarian politicians in Serbia have called for Northern Province of Vojvodina to be granted autonomy, same as Belgrade is offering to Kosovo Albanians and is seeking for Serbs in UN administrated territory.

Andras Agoston from Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, Sandor Pal from the Democratic Community of Vojvodina Hungarians and Laslo Rac Szabo from the Hungarians’ Civic Alliance have said in a letter sent to Serbia’s President Boris Tadic that Hungarian and other minorities in the northern part of Serbia should be granted autonomy the same political rights that Serbia is offering to Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and also seeking for Serbian minority there.

“We think that the principles of autonomies that are in the basis of the Serbian Government plan for resolving the position of Serbs in Kosovo are also valid in relation to the open and unresolved position of Hungarians and other minorities in Vojvodina,” the three leaders wrote in the letter.

It’s the second time in last four months that Hungarians raise the issue.

In December of last year the same three leaders in a letter addressed to Tadic and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called for talks for new upgraded status of Vojvodina to be held in parallel with already UN led launched process on the future of the breakaway Kosovo.

There was no response from Serbian leaders on the letters.

Serbia lately has been under pressure from international human rights groups and European Parliament for repeated acts of violence in the Northern Province which has a minority of more than 300,000 ethnic Ethnic Hungarians.

Last month two incidents against Hungarians were reported.

An Ethnic Hungarian was beaten by unknown attackers in Subotica town. According to Hungarian agency (MTI) the young victim, who has received cuts on his face has said that the assault was ethnically motivated as he was attacked when speaking in Hungarian language on the phone.

Another assault happened against a 28 year old Ethnic Hungarian in town of Kikinda. But this time the man was beaten at the police station.

The victim according the MTI has received serious injures that his spleen had to be removed. Twelve policemen have been sacked by Serbian authorities.

In the report by International Crisis group (ICG) Serbia has been criticised on its Hungarian minority human rights record. The ICG said that local politicians have recorded only in first five months of 2004, around 300 incidents orchestrated by members of Serbian radical party, including beatings, threats, the destruction of graveyards and national monuments, and anti-minority graffiti.

The European Parliament (EP) in a second resolution adopted in September last year warned Serbian government that respect of human rights is a strict condition Serbia must implement in order it can move closer toward EU and to conclude the talks on Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with EU.

The resolution also called for increased competencies of Vojvodina’s institutions, which were abolished in early ‘90s by Slobodan Milosevic.

The issue of Hungarians in Serbia is followed closely by Hungarian government and Hungarian members of European Parliament. Hungary joined the EU in May 2004.

Daniel Durini said...

Hello Wim,

I have been reading this blog of yours for a quite lot of time and I have enjoyed most of it. I really liked your article and share most of what is in it written. I suppose that nowadays, in the West, if someone expresses opinions similar to these, he would be immidiately labeled as a serbian propagandist. But, the times will change one day and the evidence and the measurable truth should put everything in a correct perspective, hopefully not too late.

Kind regards,

Wim Roffel said...

I am honored that you want to copy my article. The more readers - the better: that's what I am writing for. So feel free to copy it.

I do not consider myself particularly pro-Serbian - I have Albanian friends too. I have been studying ethnic affairs for a long time and by the time the wars started in Yugoslavia my convictions about what is fair and unfair in ethnic relations where already settled.

I don't find that I am immediately labeled as a Serb propagandist. Sure, the climate is anti-Serb, but that means mainly that only anti-Serb people can rant. But I don't like to rant. I prefer to stay close to the facts and problems.

Best regards, Wim

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts to grapple with the complexity surrounding the breakup of former Yugoslavia. In order to help you be more successful in your attempts to decipher and analyze the information available, might I provide you a couple of suggestions?

Suggestion One: Please cite references or web links to your claims.

Most intrepid readers and critical thinkers will question any claims made without evidence or reference. I quote a few of your claims with my notes so that you understand my point.

“At the moment the Dayton Treaty is torn up piece by piece and the Serbs are bullied into submission by threats from the OHR.”

In what sense has the Dayton Treaty been torn up piece by piece? How have the Serbs been bullied into submission by threats from the OHR? What threats has the OHR made to the Serbs? I am assuming that Serbs in the context of your assertion denotes all Serbs in the territories of former Yugoslavia, but that is not clear.

“The Yugoslavia Tribunal has played a rather strange role. For a long time it seemed to restrict itself to Serb suspects. The few Albanians, Bosniacs, and Croats that are indicted seem mainly to avoid criticism.”

Perhaps it would be helpful for the read for you to provide a breakdown of the ethnic makeup of the pool of those who have been indicted by the tribunal in order to support your claim. It would also be helpful to provide the evidence in supports your claim that the tribunal indicted non-Serbs to avoid criticism.

“And last but not least: a peace treaty is a kind of sacred document. Tearing it up because one party claims that it is not economically efficient is for me a kind of blasphemy.”

Which party claimed that the Dayton Agreement is not economically efficient? What evidence did they provide to support their claim?

Suggestion Two: If your objective is foster understanding and reconciliation among the ethnic groups of former Yugoslavia, it would be more effective to avoid relying on information from nationalist sources from any ethnic group.

Since you do not provide sources to back up your claims, I took the liberty of investigating the web links that you listed in your blog. Of the ten Balkan-related links, four are strongly pro-Serb, these are:

East Ethnia
Serbia News Network
Emperor’s Clothes
Nebojsa Malic

Perhaps you have provided these links to give your reader examples of extreme Serb nationalism, but your reader would not be able to assume that this is your objective.

Here are links to alternative news sources. All of these publications have been critical of the government policies in their respective countries. Many have survived repeated government attempts to shut them down.

B92 (Serbia):
Vreme (Serbia):
Monitor (Montenegro):
Feral Tribune (Croatia):
Nacional (Croatia):

I assume that you can read Serbo-Croatian. As I’m sure that you are aware, being able to read and understand the dominant language of the region that you have chosen to analyze provides you with the necessary tools to glean the “insider perspective” directly from the people who live there.

Wim Roffel said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks for your constructive comments. I must admit that I have been lazy by not including refering links in this article. I will look into that the coming days.

My point of view is that of a student of ethnic questions. I know the options that countries have regarding ethnic minorities and I know the probable effect of different policies. From this perspective I try put the different situation in the Balkan in a different perspective. For me it is a special case in more general development towards nation-states. Seeing it that way gives a lot of tools to guide the situation towards a good end. I think that this a much more constructive approach than blaming everything on a few bad guys. We have removed quite a few bad guys and not much has improved.

My Serbo-Croatian is rather rudimentary (as is my Albanian). But I don't think that is a problem because my main purpose is not to find new facts but to put the well known facts in a different perspective.

You claim that "Of the ten Balkan-related links, four are strongly pro-Serb". I have to disagree. Except for 3 Euprope related links all links are Balkan related - not just 10. Maybe this difference comes from you having Bosnia or Croatia as the primary point of interest, while for me it is Kosovo.

As for the 4 pro-Serb links that you mention:
- I don't consider Serbia News particularly pro-Serb. Sure I know its author is, but the blog is just the Serbian counterpart of Kosova Report.
- East Ethnia is a collection of rather random observations and links without much analysis but with some humor. To paint it as "strongly pro-Serb" seems a gross exageration to me. One reason to add it was that it has many links to other Balkan blogs.
- Nebosja Malic may put some people off with his talk about "the empire". But I find his observations about the Balkan often to the point and well-documented (allthough the links are difficult to see: you have to move the mouse over them).
- Emperor's Clothes is indeed strongly pro-Serb. I had added it mainly because it is strong in mentioning sources. But for the balance I will remove it.

I am primarily directed towards the English reader. This disqualifies Feral Tribune, Monitor and Vreme. Nacional has an english section, but except for the first paragraph it is only for subscribers. I have added a link to B92.

Best regards,

Estavisti said...

To describe EastEthnia as "pro-Serb" is just insane. The guy spends half the time discussing war crimes, war criminals etc. Unless of course by "pro-Serb" you mean he doesn't have a rabid hatred of Serbs....

Anonymous said...

Hello Wim –

You are correct. East Ethnia is not Pro-Serb. I misinterpreted a recent posting on the site, and upon further review, I determined that it was an anomaly, and it does not reflect the overall attempt by the blogger to be impartial.

I will grant that Serbia News Network is not “strongly” pro-Serb. It is rather a collection of many pro-Serb articles, including a reprint of a recent post from Nebojsa Malic.

I must vehemently disagree with you on your assertion about Nebojsa, and I would encourage your readers to take the time necessary to scrutinize his column closely. Do his words really reflect the intentions of someone who is seeking peace, common understanding, and reconciliation in former Yugoslavia?

In the interest of promoting peace in the region, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the work of progressive media and progressive organizations within all of the regions former Yugoslavia. You will find that there are many Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Kosovar Albanians who eschew extreme nationalism and promote peace in their words and deeds. The media list I provided you with is by no means comprehensive. In that context, it is a pity that your knowledge of Serbo-Croatian and Albanian is “rudimentary” as you put it.

As I am sure you are discovering in your studies of former Yugoslavia, there are too many nationalist factions who are willing to take excessive liberties with the facts surrounding the Balkan wars of the last century. Those of us who seek truth and understanding have an enormous responsibility to research and present those facts accurately and with documentation. We simply cannot afford to be “lazy” in our research.

Best Regards,

Jim (formerly Anonymous)

Wim Roffel said...

Hello Jim,

I checked Serbianews again and I really don't see all those "pro-Serb" items. It is Serb-oriented (that's why it is called Serbia News), but I can't see why articles like "Wisner to meet with Serbian officials", "Mladic may weaken Kosovo position" and "Referendum is unnecessary" - to name just the 3 most recent - are particularly pro-Serb. Many of the articles are from B92, against which you don't have objections.

Then Nebosja. He is meticulously in documenting his assertions. Even you have to give him credit for that. Also he knows a lot about what he is talking about - including much background information.

I see Nebosja as a kind of columnist. Just as many columnists in newspapers he writes in a bit cynical style and he doesn't hide that he is giving just one side of the picture. As a style I prefer this much above the style of some ICG reports that take extreme positions but pretend to be objective.

Unfortunately the ICG is not the only "progressive" organisation that behaves that way. In my previous post I discussed a CDHRF report and found it quite lacking.

I think "progressives" too often assume that talking in some politically correct way is the same as promoting peace and understanding. Too many "progressives" promote hatred and division under such politically correct terms as prosecution of warcrimes, unchangeable borders, autonomy and unity.

But maybe you can show me some English translations of articles that you admire. That would make the discussion more concrete.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Hello Wim –

Nebojsa Malic positions himself as “Libertarian”, not a Serb nationalist from Bosnia, which is exactly what he is. Any simple internet search will place his “articles” in extreme Serbian nationalist web-sites. Give it a try. One can hardly imagine Nebojsa, with all of his contempt and hatred for any non-Serb of former Yugoslavia, enjoying a casual coffee and chat with the locals of Zagreb, Pristina, or Tuzla. Aside from his misleading political identification, he appears to find himself in a curious geographical position: a Bosnian Serb “exile” living in the United States, a country for which he cannot hide his contempt. One would think that there might be better places for him to live as an exile: why not Sweden, Canada, or The Netherlands? Why not go back to Bosnia and effect change there; is it because of a lower living standard? Nebojsa’s intention to identify as something other than what he is would appear to parallel some of the alleged tactics of the ICG which you call into question.

According to your assessment, the ICG pose as “progressive” but in fact opt for extreme positions. Here is a link to the ICG website, which is in English. Your readers might like to take another look at the work of ICG for examples of their “extremism”. I am having a bit of a hard time finding these examples, but I will continue looking.

I will refer to Serbian News Network again because Nejbojsa’s glowing review of Bosnia War Crimes Revisionist/Denier Diana Johnstone’s book: “Fools Crusade” is actually the third posted article. This article is dated April 19, 2006.

Here is a link to Eric Gordy’s (East Ethnia; your link) review of Johnstone’s most recent war crimes denier/revisionist article:

I have to admit that it is a bit of a challenge for me to decipher your overall agenda, or general manifesto for the former Yugoslavia. I am referring to your quote which follows:

“I think "progressives" too often assume that talking in some politically correct way is the same as promoting peace and understanding. Too many "progressives" promote hatred and division under such politically correct terms as prosecution of war crimes, unchangeable borders, autonomy and unity.”

How do “progressives” promote hatred by advocating the prosecution of war crimes? Would you support the formation a multi-ethnic commission for the accurate documentation of war crimes (i.e. the pursuit of correct names and numbers) for the 1990-95 wars of former Yugoslavia? Should this commission also address the crimes of World War II?

What are “unchangeable borders” in this context? Are you advocating the change of borders to reflect ethnic compositions? What would these changes be based on; the pre-1990 maps of former Yugoslavia, or after the forced displacement or elimination of the various ethnic groups from their places of origin (i.e. Serbs in Croatia, Bosniaks and Croats from Republika Srpksa, Serbs from the Federation of Bosnia, Kosovar Albanians and Serbs from Kosovo, etc.)?

Do you support the OHR’s campaign to return refugees to their homes in the Federation of Bosnia and Republika Srpska? Do you support EU efforts to repatriate the displaced Serbs from Croatia? How about the return of Serbs displaced from Kosovo?

What do you mean by “autonomy” and “unity” in this context? Should all of the countries of former Yugoslavia redraw internal (i.e. create cantons) or external borders (reshape already existing countries) based on the ethnic majorities of those regions? Should Yugoslavia just go ahead and reform as a state?

I would be glad to provide you with overall summaries of regional “progressive publications” – which eschew nationalism and reach out beyond the borders of their states of origin and seek balance in their coverage of current events. My intention is to encourage you to avoid nationalist rhetoric from any source, of which Nebojsa Malic is one.

Best Regards,


Wim Roffel said...

I believe the prosecution of war crimes is important but overrated. These wars were rooted in political conflicts that are still there. I think solving these conflicts is the most important question. Unfortunately a lot of politicians behave as if putting a few bad guys behind bars and counting dead bodies will solve the underlying political conflict.

Nebosja's last post was rather weak. I find him better when he discusses the news - as he usually does.

Talking about war crimes and mean policies won't make you friends with the side that you are accusing. The popularity of Mladic, Oric and Gotovina shows that a common opinion is far away. For that reason the best way to get along is to accept a diversity of opinions. Even the guys in the ICTY prison get that. So I am not so pessimistic as you about Nebosja's ability to make friends in Zagreb.


Anonymous said...

I found this page through other Balkan blogs - I advise you wim to exchange more 'links' with other bloggers so that you will be more widely read.

I largely agree with many of your thoughts that I have read on your page thus far.

Since we are discussing other bloggers / online journalists I will also contribute:

As far as Malic is concered the libetarian position is too comfortably consistent with a nationalist position (in a country other than the US). I dont like this contradiction in some way - how is it that US foreign policy is blasted and Bosnian Serb policy of the 1990's given a pass?
Is it a coincidence that by supporting the libetarian position it consolidates the powers of the strongest around the world (ie the non intervention libetarian position would have meant that the Bosnian Serbs would have been on the winning side) etc etc etc.

And what is this crap about private property when private property doesnt exist (in my opinion one always dies so nothing belongs to you and nor should it).

Still put all of that to one side and as Wim states Malic does manage to hit the nail on the head. But and this is a big but, as a critique of policy. I believe that Malic doesnt have the slightest idea in terms of how to reconcile or bring together or how to solve anything. He only knows how to mount an effective, if slightly angry critique of past and current Western actions.

I also concur that Malic's last post was particularly weak - basically a rehash of things he's already written.

Jim I dont think that we should be phobic to a persons writing or reporting because they support a certain philosophy. If you know the philosophy there is nothing to fear by reading it and occasionally you learn something even if you are bitterly opposed to many of the views expressed. Its an effective way to learn.

Jim if you want to see an example of ICG rubbish read Lyons latest published in some American rag. Most of it is a load of rubbish - truly. In it he claims that Serbia is overcome by nationalism and its only a matter of time before the Radicals come to power.

Let me interpret that - he hopes that happens in which case he will be re-appointed boss of ICG Serbia and the office wont close down as planned. If you think that sounds cynical you would be right but I've been involved with NGO's for many years and know the way some think.

I too could benefit personally if the Radicals come to power but I hope to God they dont.

rodoyf said...

I admire your writing style, it's very clear to the point, simple. Great article, keep it up.